Friday, July 12, 2013

Lac Megantic – don’t Blame but rather Change to get better

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Lac Megantic – don’t Blame but rather Change to get better

With more numbers of the death toll in Lac Megantic being released anger continues to rise against the MMA Train Company and the head of that company.  An article I read this morning also mentions more about Tom Harding, the train operator that set the brakes and then went to the Inn that he usually sleeps at on his normal train runs in southern Quebec.

In a tragedy so great someone will be found guilty and one person will likely be found to be the culprit.  To find one person or one reason is the primary goal to make people satisfied.

When Mr. Edward Burkhardt, the CEO of Rail World Inc., finally came to town the frustration and anger of the town finally erupted and he became the guy that was the fault.

Edward was in bed north of Chicago, Illinois when it happened – yet he is the center of focus and the one that they find “guilty”.

Now Tom Harding is the “guilty party” according to Edward. If he had done his job in the way that he should have, the accident may never have happened – so some say.

But after reading the article from the Star Phoenix I now understand better the idea of “SPTO” – or “Single Person Train Operator”.  Ton Harding was the SPTO that fateful night.

While Tom checked into the Inn for his rest one of his train engines caught fire because of fuel line problem – we have been told. The local fire department came to that small crisis and a MMA Train emplyee was there to take a final look before he left the scene.

It was after that small fire was put out that the train started to slowly creep ahead until it rolled down hill at a very high speed into the small village, Lac Megantic – where it killed so many unsuspecting people.

There are way too many questions in my mind before anyone can blame anyone else for what happened.

And I believe that are so many things that could have prevented this from ever happening… and all those folk would still be alive today – if they would have acted on the problem.

Go way back to the days when Lac Megantic and hundreds of other small towns around the world built. The town centre was always located near the train station. The delivery of people and goods arriving by train meant building the town close by.  It was so simple then.

Now less and less things are delivered by train to a downtown train station – yet the train runs through the heart of the busiest places.

There were reports of the town of Lac Megantic’s people being frustrated with the way that MMA’s trains cut their town in half by slow moving (and likely stopped) trains. Ambulances could not make it to their destinations with patients that were in trouble. There likely were times when the patient didn’t make it and simply died waiting for a train to clear the crossing.(a potential serious scenario).

We lived in Yorkton, Saskatchewan and often saw very long and slow moving trains pass through the heart of the city. Trains could be up to a mile long – 5280 feet of slow moving metal passing through the city. It went slow because of the potential danger of a derailment.

One situation that was comical in Yorkton happened because of long and slow moving trains.

Every night a train of great length would pull through the city, blocking the main drags. It was long enough to cut off all access to the west side of the city.  On the east side was a favorite coffee shop for the RCMP officers.  And at the time when the train pulled through the city was a perfect time for the Police to shut it down for a while – get to the coffee shop together and enjoy a break.  No cars could move in or out of the city so it was a welcome relief.

Some thieves new the routine of the police and of the train company. It was at that time that they were on the west side of the city and then robbed a business at gun point.  The frantic calls to the Police for help were received at the main station which was also on the east side of the tracks – the same side that the coffee shop was on. And the thieves got away with it!

Why link this story to the Lac Megantic tragedy?  Neither situation was funny.  Everyone got in trouble – and in Yorkton’s case the poor store owners received no help at all.  Police Officers caught in a coffee shop and unable to provide service to the community was terrible.

Why hadn’t someone rebuilt the train tracks around the city or towns?

The Government of Canada with all of its regulatory departments and powerful MPs needed to address this issue. But all the complaints from Lac Megantic residents fell on deaf ears – until it was too late.

Mark my words – this train track will never go through Lac Megantic again.  When they realize what could prevent it – it will be moved or shut down completely.

But blame is the game that everyone plays out to try to feel better in the end. But Blame never makes anyone feel better. Change will help make people feel better.

I think that the downtown area of Lac Megantic should be leveled and a huge park created in memory to the loved ones that are now gone.  This is the only way to make it happen.

There are thousands of train tracks that MMA and the Canadian Government can use to get this precious load of crude oil to Maine. They will find a way for sure.

My five cents worth today!

~ Murray Lincoln ~

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